Commonwealth v. Buccieri, 233

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtMR. DEAN, JUSTICE
Citation153 Pa. 535,26 A. 228
Docket Number233
Decision Date20 March 1893
PartiesCommonwealth v. Buccieri, Appellant

26 A. 228

153 Pa. 535

Commonwealth
v.
Buccieri, Appellant

No. 233

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

March 20, 1893


Argued: February 27, 1893 [26 A. 229]

Appeal, No. 233, Jan. T., 1893, by defendant, Pietro Buccieri, from judgment of O. & T. Berks Co., Sept. T., 1892, No. 98, on indictment for murder.

Indictment for murder.

The facts as they appeared at the trial before ENDLICH, J., are stated in the opinion of the Supreme Court.

Verdict, guilty of murder in the first degree. Defendant asked to have the jurors polled. Some of the jurors answered, "Guilty in the first degree." Defendant objected to the recording of the verdict. The Court: "The jury may be polled again and each juror as he answers will say by his voice whether or not he finds the defendant 'guilty of murder in the first degree.'" One juror answered again: "Guilty in the first degree." The Court: "Guilty of what?" A. "Guilty of murder in the first degree."

Errors assigned are stated in the opinion of the Supreme Court.

E. H. Deysher, W. B. Bechtel with him, for appellant, cited, on the question of continuance: State v. Brooks, 39 La. An. 239; Kerr on Homicide, 367; on change of venue: Seams v. State, 84 Ala. 410; State v. Nash, 7 Iowa, 347; State v. Mooney, 10 Iowa 506; Taylor v. Gardiner, 11 R.I. 182; Com. v. Allen, 135 Pa. 492; Goersen v. Com., 99 Pa. 398; Williams v. Com., 91 Pa. 502; Rex v. Bootyman, 5 Car. & P. 300; on challenge of juryman: Rizzolo v. Com., 126 Pa. 71; on opinion of non-expert witness: Taylor v. Com., 109 Pa. 270; on admission of expert's opinion: Kerr on Homicide, 525; Com. v. McClain, 110 Pa. 270; on charge as to appearance of prisoner: State v. Freidrich, 29 Pacific R. 1059; on polling jury: Williams v. Maryland, 60 Md. 402; Brown v. State, 5 Tex. Law Review, 81; on charge as to design to kill: Com. v. Drum, 58 Pa. 9.

J. H. Jocobs and W. J. Rourke, H. P. Keiser and W. Oscar Miller, district attorney, with them, for commonwealth, cited, as to change of venue: Com. v. Allen, 135 Pa. 492; on charge as to appearance of prisoner: Burrill, Circumstantial Evidence, 502, § 28; on charge as to design to kill: Green v. Com., 83 Pa. 79; Lanahan v. Com., 84 Pa. 84, 87, 89; Cathcart v. Com., 37 Pa. 108; Lynch v. Com., 77 Pa. 207; as to omission to charge upon manslaughter: Brown v. Com., 76 Pa. 319-339; Clark v. Com., 123 Pa. 555-575; McMeen v. Com., 114 Pa. 305; as to 24th specification: Laros v. Com., 84 Pa. 200; as to the 25th specification: McLain v. Com., 99 Pa. 86; Lanahan v. Com., 84 Pa. 80; McCue v. Com., 78 Pa. 190.

Before STERRETT, C.J., GREEN, WILLIAMS, McCOLLUM, MITCHELL and DEAN, JJ.

OPINION [26 A. 230]

[153 Pa. 538] MR. DEAN, JUSTICE

The prisoner, defendant, Pietro Buccieri, on the afternoon [153 Pa. 539] of the 23d of June, 1892, killed Sister Mary Hildaberta at St. Joseph's Hospital in the city of Reading. Being arrested, tried, and convicted of murder of the first degree, and sentenced to be executed, he took this appeal, alleging as error: (1) The refusal of the court to grant a continuance. (2) The refusal of the court to award a change of venue. (3) Overruling motion to quash indictment. (4) Denying prisoner's application for bill of particulars. (5) Sustaining a challenge for cause on part of commonwealth to Thomas J. Hill, a juror called. (6) In sustaining an objection of commonwealth to a question put by prisoner's counsel to Gustano Bruno, a witness, for the purpose of eliciting his opinion of the sanity of prisoner. (7 and 8) Permitting commonwealth to show drunkenness of prisoner in rebuttal of testimony that he was epileptic. (9) Permitting Dr. A. B. Dundore, a witness for the commonwealth, to give an opinion as to prisoner's mental condition an hour or two before the examination, and also an opinion based on insufficient facts. (10) Permitting Dr. Martin Luther to testify as to soundness of memory from observation of prisoner's manner and testimony on witness stand. (11) In refusing to adjourn the court on close of evidence on Saturday evening to Monday morning. (12) In limiting time of prisoner's counsel for discussion of evidence to the jury to two hours. (13 and 14) Error in charge of court on subject of insanity, the principal defence set up by prisoner. (15, 17, 18 and 25) Errors in the charge as to essential elements of murder in first degree, and unfairness of charge towards the prisoner. (19, 20 and 21) Error in not answering at all prayers 1, 2, and 10 for special instructions. (22) Error in polling jury, and accepting and recording verdict. (23) In refusing to attach for contempt witnesses for failure to appear and testify, in obedience to subpoena on motion for new trial. (24) In refusing to order inquiry into sanity of prisoner when called for sentence. (25) In entering judgment on verdict when evidence did not warrant a finding of murder of first degree. There is no 16th assignment of error noted in paper book; while the numbers are 25, there are in fact but twenty-four assignments.

As the 15th, 17th, 18th and 25th assignments allege error in instruction to the jury which tended to bring about the verdict, we will consider them first.

[153 Pa. 540] The time that elapsed between the first indication of prisoner's purpose and giving the fatal wounds was not probably longer than between ten and twenty seconds, evidencing, as argued by prisoner's counsel, too short a time for deliberation and premeditation, essential elements of murder of the first degree. The court instructed the jury, "That if for any period of time, no matter how short, there was on the part of the accused, a conscious design and determination to kill, the killing was murder of the first degree." In determining whether the statement of a general rule of law, although correct standing by itself, may be misleading in its application to the facts of a particular case, we must have before us the facts. What are the facts here, either not in dispute or clearly established.

The prisoner is a shoemaker by trade, possessed of some education, is thirty-eight years of age, was born in Italy, came to this country in 1883, located in Reading about the year 1887, carried on his trade there until the 7th of January, 1892. That day, by the explosion of an oil lamp, he was so severely burned in the left arm as to permanently cripple that member; the same day he was removed for treatment to St. Joseph's Hospital, a Catholic charitable institution in the city of Reading. There he remained until the 23d of June, 1892, being nursed and cared for all the time, and although the injured arm was useless, otherwise he had become strong physically. Sister Mary Hildaberta, the deceased, was about twenty-three years of age, was a member of the religious order of St. Francis, and with other members of her order assisted in ministering to the wants and alleviating the sufferings of diseased and injured patients. She had taken her turn for five and a half months, day and night, in nursing the prisoner and his fellow-sufferers in the hospital; her last act of kindness to him before he stabbed her was to place a glass of milk at his bedside. About a quarter to four o'clock on the afternoon of the day in question, Laurence W. Scott, another patient, was sitting in an invalid's chair near the entrance to the sick-room, when the prisoner came to him and asked the loan of his knife to mend his pants. Scott handed him the closed knife. The prisoner, having the use of but one hand, asked Scott to open the blade, which he did. Just about this time, Sister Hildaberta had come into the sick-ward with two glasses of milk; one of them she gave [153 Pa. 541] to a patient, John O'Brien, the other she placed by prisoner's bed; then, she walked towards the kitchen at the other side of the room. All her movements, from the time she entered until she started to leave, were in full view of the prisoner. While she was placing the glasses of milk, he was getting the knife from Scott. After he got the open knife he turned and rapidly followed her, concealing the knife in his hand, out to the kitchen, when he attacked and stabbed her in the breast, hip and abdomen. She tried to escape, turned and ran screaming back into the sick-ward, pursued by the prisoner, when Scott raised his chair to strike him down; then he stopped and gave the knife back to Scott. All three wounds were deep ones; the one in the abdomen indicated that the knife had been twisted around in the wound, as if with intent to cut the intestines or disembowel her, and was necessarily fatal; after intense suffering she died the next day.

In view of these facts, it seems to us, the language of the learned judge, "If for any period of time, no matter [26 A. 231] how short, there was a conscious design to kill, the killing was murder of the first degree," was proper instruction. The conduct of the prisoner, for the few seconds preceding the fatal stabs, points to both deliberation and premeditation; indeed, it is rare in homicide cases that these operations of the mind are indicated by acts so significant of them, and of nothing else. The prisoner, with the object of his attack in view, observing her movements and that she is about to go to the kitchen, borrows from his fellow-patient a knife, a deadly weapon, the first act indicative of the purpose; every movement from that moment until the moment he plunged it into the body of Sister Hildaberta, distinctly disclosed the existence and persistence of the purpose. He asked that the knife be opened; the purpose, immediate use; concealed it in his hand, that this purpose might not be discovered or interrupted; followed her to the kitchen, where the interference of other patients could not balk him in his purpose, and then with unrelenting ferocity of purpose repeatedly stabbed her.

There can be no purpose in the mind such as this one, which is not the product of deliberation and premeditation; the fact of the one...

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92 practice notes
  • United States v. Handy, No. 257.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • June 9, 1955
    ...457, 169 A. 896, quite like the present situation; Com. v. Smith, 1896, 185 Pa. 553, at pages 557, 558, 40 A. 83; Com. v. Buccieri, 1893, 153 Pa. 535, at page 545, 26 A. 228, at page 232, "A very gross abuse of this discretion would have to appear." The question of change of venue......
  • Com. v. Moore
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • October 3, 1975
    ...605, 608--09, 55 A. 781, 782 (1903); Commonwealth v. Eckerd, 174 Pa. 137, 148--49, 34 A. 305, 305--06 (1896); Commonwealth v. Buccieri, 153 Pa. 535, 553, 26 A. 228, 235 This anomoly, so far as my research has revealed, was the only instance of a divergence of permissible verdict and obligat......
  • United States v. Handy, No. 257.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • May 17, 1951
    ...Pa. 573, at page 577, 139 A. 374; Com. v. Riggs, 313 Pa. 457, 169 A. 896; Com. v. Skawinski, 313 Pa. 453, 169 A. 895; Com. v. Buccieri, 153 Pa. 535, 26 A. 228; Com. v. March, 248 Pa. 434, 94 A. 142; Com. v. Spallone, 154 Pa.Super. 282, 35 A.2d Nothing appeared in the record to show that all......
  • Com. v. Evans
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • August 10, 1959
    ...even when required, is not meant to be a specification of every item of evidence to be adduced by the Commonwealth. Com. v. Buccieri, 153 Pa. 535, 547, 26 A. 228. Upon motion of the district attorney, to which the defendants objected, the court permitted the consolidation of the indictments......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
92 cases
  • United States v. Handy, No. 257.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • June 9, 1955
    ...457, 169 A. 896, quite like the present situation; Com. v. Smith, 1896, 185 Pa. 553, at pages 557, 558, 40 A. 83; Com. v. Buccieri, 1893, 153 Pa. 535, at page 545, 26 A. 228, at page 232, "A very gross abuse of this discretion would have to appear." The question of change of venue......
  • Com. v. Moore
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • October 3, 1975
    ...605, 608--09, 55 A. 781, 782 (1903); Commonwealth v. Eckerd, 174 Pa. 137, 148--49, 34 A. 305, 305--06 (1896); Commonwealth v. Buccieri, 153 Pa. 535, 553, 26 A. 228, 235 This anomoly, so far as my research has revealed, was the only instance of a divergence of permissible verdict and obligat......
  • United States v. Handy, No. 257.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • May 17, 1951
    ...Pa. 573, at page 577, 139 A. 374; Com. v. Riggs, 313 Pa. 457, 169 A. 896; Com. v. Skawinski, 313 Pa. 453, 169 A. 895; Com. v. Buccieri, 153 Pa. 535, 26 A. 228; Com. v. March, 248 Pa. 434, 94 A. 142; Com. v. Spallone, 154 Pa.Super. 282, 35 A.2d Nothing appeared in the record to show that all......
  • Com. v. Evans
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • August 10, 1959
    ...even when required, is not meant to be a specification of every item of evidence to be adduced by the Commonwealth. Com. v. Buccieri, 153 Pa. 535, 547, 26 A. 228. Upon motion of the district attorney, to which the defendants objected, the court permitted the consolidation of the indictments......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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